A US court has ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $965 million in damages to the families of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting victims after falsely claiming the massacre had been a hoax.
Relatives of eight victims and an FBI agent who responded to the attack sued Mr. Jones for defamation, seeking at least $550 million in damages.
In the lawsuit filed in Connecticut, the plaintiffs alleged they had faced harassment and death threats for at least a decade due to misinformation spread by the radio host about the tragedy.
The Sandy Hook attack was the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in United States history. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the attack.
However, through his Infowars conspiracy website and talk show, Mr. Jones repeatedly claimed for years that the Sandy Hook massacre was a “hoax” and had been staged.
According to the radio host, the attack was a government plot to take away the weapons from the Americans, and “no one died.”
Mr. Jones also said that the victims’ parents were “crisis actors,” claiming that some of them had never existed.
During the three-week trial, relatives of the victims described how they had received an outpouring of online hate and threats. Some said they were forced to move homes several times out of fear for their safety.
The plaintiffs also told the jury that Mr. Jones’ company Free Speech Systems had made millions of dollars selling survival kits, nutritional supplements, and other products through the Infowars catalog.
“When every single one of these families were drowning in grief, Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them,” plaintiffs’ attorney Chris Mattei said in closing arguments.
The conspiracy theorist has admitted that the attack was “100% real.” However, he broadcast himself watching the verdict and mocking the court proceedings, saying that the trial had been a show run by a “tyrant” judge.
In dramatic testimony late last month, Mr. Jones said he was not responsible for his followers’ actions, adding: “I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times, and I’m done saying I’m sorry.”
A Texas court also ordered Mr. Jones to pay $49.3 million in damages to other Sandy Hook parents in a similar lawsuit in August.
However, the conspiracy theorist vowed Wednesday that he “will not go away” or “stop,” saying he would continue to question the school shootings.